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Big Ten Tournament GAMETHREAD: #7 Indiana vs. #10 Northwestern

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports




Here's the information you need to know as you stand in line to buy the 200-proof grain alcohol you'll need this afternoon. From Kyle Swick's Game Preview:


Who? Northwestern Wildcats (15-16 (6-12) #111 KenPom) v. Indiana Hoosiers (19-12 (9-9), #55 KenPom)

When? Thursday, March 12, 6:30 PM EDT, ESPN2

Vegas? TBA

Pomeroy? INDIANA by 5, 68% chance of Indiana victory

Four Factors

eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Offense) 55.2% (16th) 17.3% (64th) 34.5% (70th) 33.2% (273rd)
NORTHWESTERN (Defense) 48.4% (142nd) 15.5% (341st) 30.2% (129th) 33.5% (103rd)

eFG% TO% OR% FT Rate
INDIANA (Defense) 50.5% (229th) 16.1% (326th) 31.4% (193rd) 31.0% (50th)
NORTHWESTERN (Offense) 50.4% (106th) 18.2% (105th) 27.9% (256th) 28.4% (343rd)

Given that we played Northwestern a little over two weeks ago, I won't get in-depth as far as the Wildcats as an opponent, that information can be found in the preview I wrote last time. Instead, let's look at the Big Ten Tournament with a larger lens, what it means for the Hoosiers, and what they must do to pull themselves out of the rut. As usual, it's gonna get weird.

Life on the Bubble

Let's get a couple things straight: Indiana does not look anything like an NCAA Tournament-worthy squad and haven't for some time. But it's important to remember that a lot of teams make the field every year that don't pass the sacred "eye test." It's what makes the NCAA Tournament so great and, depending on your team's merit, so dumb. Even deeply flawed rosters make it in as double-digit seeds and get the exact same opportunity that undefeated Kentucky will get:

To play until they get beat.

Indiana's tournament hopes, while still definitely alive, are very much on life support. Bracketologists nationwide have them somewhere between a 10 and a 12 seed, with most placing them into the illustrious First Four in Dayton, Ohio. Which means Indiana will be playing in one of the first four games and must win to make it into the "traditional field." It can and has been discussed how lame it is that a team who started conference play with a 5-1 record is now in such a predicament, but nothing I'll waste time with here. It is what it is. I'd like Indiana to make the tournament over not making the tournament because I like having the opportunity to win championships.

I'm not a bracketologist, but it seems Indiana has a reasonable enough path in front of them: beat Northwestern and they're likely in. Lose to Northwestern and almost definitely be out. The Hoosiers remain in control of their own destiny and can certainly play their way out of Dayton with a strong showing this weekend. Should they clear Northwestern, they will then get a Maryland team they've beaten by 16 points aggregate, then a matchup with likely OSU/MSU before a finale with (probably) Wisconsin. If Indiana can secure a winning record in the tournament, they could elevate themselves out of the First Four altogether.

There's just one problem with that.

holy hell the hoosiers suck at this

Indiana has had a winning record in this tournament exactly once, in 2001 when they reached the final round before losing to Iowa. Since Crean took over, the Hoosiers have been bounced in their first game in all three "recovery" years, before back-to-back win-one / lose-one appearances in 2012 and 2013 before another one game engagement last season for an overall record of 2 - 6.

So when I say the Hoosiers can play their way out of Dayton with a couple wins in this tournament, know that I'm well aware that doing just that would be a grand departure from the Hoosiers' historical performance in this event. But if there were ever a year to break through at this thing, it was 2013 would be this year. Despite the debacle in Evanston, you have to feel kind of good, in theory, about an opening game against the 111th ranked team on KenPom, followed by a Maryland squad that Indiana seems to match up very well against, so the roadmap to the elusive two-win appearance is easier than it has been in some time. Arch-nemesis Wisconsin remains as far away as possible, along with matchup nightmares in Purdue and Iowa.